24 February 2003

A Yankee Century
A Celebration of the First Hundred Years of Baseball's Greatest Team
by Harvey Frommer

From the introduction by erstwhile Yankee rightfielder Paul O'Neill to the pages of famous and infamous quotes, to the lists of firsts and feats and statistics, Harvey Frommer's A Yankee Century ($26.95, Berkley, hardcover) is a joy to read. Frommer includes not only the accomplishments that have made the Yankees the most successful franchise in the history of professional sport (26 World Series titles, more Hall-of-Famers and retired numbers than any other team) but also the more dubious accomplishments (the embarrasing last-place finishes, off-color quotes and pre-mature trades, especially early in the Steinbrenner Era). The book allots the reader a view from almost any imaginable perspective: A timeline and a separate list of memorable moments, to review the details of specific occurrences; a history of Yankee Stadium, the shrine at which every New York boy's major league hopes are or were once laid; a who's who and discussion of the best and worst teams, the heroes every kid growing up around the Big Apple idolized; even lists of nicknames, significances of certain numbers, and a 100-question Yankee quiz. (I got a 72% - pretty sad - but I'm gonna study and re-apply next week!)

What This Book Is: A Yankee Century is well written. An Ivy-League professor, who ought to be able to convey his thoughts well, Frommer makes the book enjoyable by making it simultaneously eloquent and readable. Its sections fall in more-than-manageable chunks, making it easy to read through, or to take in small sections, as time allows. Like, in the bathroom, for instance. Numerous black and white photographs grace the pages, adding to the sense of nostalgia, reminding you both how handsome Mickey Mantle was and how funny Bernie Williams looked with those big old square glasses. It even contains nifty little surprises like a dictionary for interpreting Casey Stengel's verbal diarrhea and the entire text of Mickey Mantle's Hall of Fame acceptance speech. My wife will tell you that I know everything about baseball and about the Yankees (She's wrong, of course, but I like to let her believe it...) and even I learned a few things from A Yankee Century.

What This Book Is Not: Frommer seems to know quite a lot about baseball, both from the historical/human interest side and from the statistical analysis side of things. While he uses and cites a lot of numbers, this is not a sabermetric book. Only occasionally does he make reference to things like slugging pergentage or home run ratio, but of course, this isn't necessary for such a work. Despite the great B&W photos, this is not really a picture book. The focus is much more on the writing, and the liberal but tasteful use of pictures never becomes overwhelming.

A Yankee Century makes a great coffee table book for the old Yankee fan to reminisce, the young Yankee fan to marvel, or the aspiring baseball fan to help solidify his choice of the greatest baseball team to follow in history.